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Friday, March 10, 1995 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Mystery Patient Of Venice -- She May Be A Seattle Native Nationally Known As Pianist

The mysterious American woman authorities in an Italian hospital are trying to learn more about apparently is a native of Seattle who became a nationally acclaimed pianist, debuting with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra when she was 12, playing USO and Red Cross camp tours, and performing in major movies and for world-class conductors.

The elderly woman, whom the hospital has known only as an American piano teacher by the name of Dorothy Helen Eustis, has been a forgotten patient of Giustinian Hospital in Venice, where she was admitted after suffering a delirium spell and respiratory ailment in 1993. Believed to be in her late 70s, she recovered but remains in a state of mild senility and is uncommunicative.

Her case was made public earlier this week by a Venice newspaper, which reported that the cost of keeping her in the hospital had reached about $300,000.

Medical authorities have been trying for some time to learn more about her, such as where she came from, and to find any relatives.

This morning, Hilde Wilson of Seattle, who read an Associated Press account of the woman in yesterday's Seattle Times, said Dorothy Eustis "was my piano teacher in the 1940s . . . a charming lady, young and vital and very talented."

According to Seattle Times news files, a Dorothy Eustis was an accomplished performer from her debut with the Seattle Symphony in February 1930, to the mid 1950s when she appeared on television in Los Angeles and worked on music for film scores.

A student at Lincoln High School, the Cornish School of Music, Mills College and the University of Washington, Eustis had a varied musical career, ranging from concerts in the Hollywood Bowl under conductor Leopold Stokowskito playing in films such as "Carnegie Hall" and "The Chase" in 1947.

She made her New York debut at Town Hall in 1943.

"Her fingers were agile, even and accurate," reported The New York Sunday Times after her debut there.

Three years later, when she played another Town Hall concert, a New York Herald Tribune critic wrote that she "plays scales superbly. She can run up and down the keyboard as fast and as smoothly as anyone this reporter has ever heard."

Conductor-pianist Jose Iturbi chose her as a soloist when his Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra played a concert for naval women at Hunter College, N.Y.

In 1947, the noted singer John Charles Thomas interrupted an Oakland concert to introduce Eustis in a surprise presentation. Under a Seattle Times headline that read "Surprise Concert Performance Spells Fame for Seattle Girl," the newspaper quoted Thomas as saying: "I believe Miss Eustis to be the greatest American instrumental artist since Maude Powell. Jose Iturbi himself told me he believes she is one of the greatest women pianists of this generation."

Eustis was wed to Philip Farnsworth Cannon, a New York industrial engineer, in the spring of 1947. Metropolitan Opera star Lily Pons sang at the wedding reception.

Eustis continued to do concerts and other work through the mid-50s, but then dropped out of the spotlight. Little is known of her activities during the next three decades, until she was admitted to Giustinian Hospital in Venice.

"She's been in the hospital for about two years, " Dr. Pierluigi Stefinlongo said today. "She could go out for little day trips, if anyone came to take her.

"We'd like to find someone interested in helping her, some relatives, to find a place for her," he added. "She has remained an American citizen, although she does speak some Italian."

Stefinlongo said the woman's neighbors admitted her to the hospital, and he confirmed that she was a pianist based on neighbors' accounts.

"She's no problem. She's calm. She just won't communicate, she won't talk, especially to medical personnel," Stefinlongo said.

"But we'd like to find some relatives, and something, a place for her."

The U.S. Embassy said it could not comment on the case because of legal requirements to protect citizens' privacy, according to the Associated Press.

Sources said she moved to Venice eight or nine years ago and taught piano in her home.

Her hospital chart said she was from Washington, D.C.

Copyright (c) 1995 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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